Let the games begin.
Today in Chicago, commissioners from the 11 FBS conferences and the athletic director from Notre Dame will meet to discuss the future of college football’s postseason. Lines of battle have already been drawn with the Big Ten and Pac-12 on one side, the SEC and Big 12 on the other, and the other eight entities all falling somewhere in between.
Heading into today’s get-together, Mike Slive has made it clear that he’s only interested in a system that welcomes in the four highest-rated teams in football into a new playoff. He’s willing to discuss the idea of a selection committee, but he knows — as we’ve written — that a selection committee might not necessarily mean “the best four teams” get invites. Depending on who’s on such a committee, conference champs only might get nods while higher-ranked teams stuck in — oh, let’s say — the SEC West might get denied.
ESPN’s team of bloggers have spent the past month simply taking the positions of their respective conferences and kissing up to their readers. The back-and-forth-and-back again between the Big Ten and SEC writers has actually gotten a bit nasty at times, no doubt spurred on by the management of the four-letter network. Pac-12 writer Ted Miller yesterday took up the argument of the conference he’s supposed to cover (not root for) when he said:
“The SEC folks were just ridiculous with their ‘four best teams’ chicanery. When SEC commissioner Mike Slive kept repeating ‘One, two, three, four’ to reporters last week, what he was really saying was, ‘The SEC’s priority is maintaining subjectivity as the key component of the college football postseason.’
Understand: There is no ‘one, two, three, four.’ There are only opinions and computer formulas. You might note that no — zero — pro sports use a ‘one, two, three, four.’ They all have divisions. To advance to the playoffs, you must win your division or win a wild-card spot. In no case is there a subjective voting process or selection committee.”
Miller then goes on to promote the “Delany Model” which is Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany’s “four-champs-if-they’re-ranked-in-the-top-six” overly-complicated plan.
Now, what’s unbelievably silly is the fact that Delany’s plan and any other plan involving conference champs only will be just as subjective as a 1-2-3-4 plan. In all cases, some form of ratings will have to be assigned.
Which conference champs are best? Does the Sun Belt champ equal the Big Ten champ? If not, why not? Who says? They’re both conference champions after all.
The argument against using rankings is such mind-numbing drivel that it annoys the pants off anyone who can actually use logic to step all of one step down the road. “We don’t like rankings. Now, let’s rank the conference champions.” You’re… still… using… rankings!
That’s akin — not to go all “Prometheus” on you — to saying: “A-ha, there is no God because we were created by a race of aliens!” Well, who created the race of aliens?
All that said, we don’t do a lot of kissing up or rooting around here. According to our inbox, we’re supposedly “haters” of all 14 SEC squads and we’re not quick to support every Mike Slive move (cough, cough, the league’s new football and basketball schedules) the way ESPN’s writers often fall in line behind their assigned leagues. So…
Here’s what SEC fans should be hoping for when it comes to the next month of playoff talks. No, it’s not exactly what Slive wants, but if compromise is necessary then he should be willing to yield in some areas. (He should be used to that after allowing ADs and coaches to hijack the bus on the SEC’s new scheduling plans.)
1. A four-team playoff
Duh. The SEC would probably do quite well in an eight-team playoff world, but that’s not even on the table. What’s back on the table, though, is a pure Plus-One model that would simply take the two best teams after the bowls and put them together in a title game. Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott and the Big Ten presidents supposedly favor such a plan or — in the presidents’ case — the status quo. This would solve nothing, of course. Instead of picking two teams before the bowls, college football would just pick two teams after the bowls. A third team would still scream and the sport would still lack a true champ.
Therefore, anything Slive needs to do compromise-wise to insure a change to a four-team system, well, that’s what he needs to do. If he’s interested in the fans’ desires.
If he’s interested in what’s best for the Southeastern Conference, then he should be A-OK with the status quo. Slive’s league has won six BCS titles in a row, it’s had the only two-loss team invited to a BCS title game, and it’s the only league to have both combatants in the BCS title game. In 14 BCS seasons, eight times an SEC school has been crowned king. The BCS works for the SEC. Ironically, this is what so many writers are missing.
Those who say Slive is only interested in what’s best for his league fail to grasp the fact that the current system has actually proven to be what’s best for the SEC. But Slive isn’t pushing the status quo. He’s pushing what’s best for the game and fans — a four-team playoff.
So if he really wants what’s best for the fans — a playoff — then he needs to be willing to consider a compromise model that would include the top three ranked conference champs and the next highest-rated team in the nation. Such a plan could have landed Alabama a spot in last year’s playoff (depending on whether or not a selection committee would have done the picking and who would have served on said committee).
2. Semifinals tied to bowls with the title game bid out
This, too, looks like a probability. If so, SEC fans should be alright with such a result. The highest-seeded teams — uh-oh, there’s that subjectivity again — would host the semifinals in their “anchor” bowls. According to most of the chatter, the current BCS bowls would make up those anchor bowls. So if a Pac-12 or Big Ten team were ranked/seeded #1 or #2, yes, they’d host their opponent in the Rose Bowl.
For the SEC, their current BCS bowl partner is the Sugar. The Big 12′s is the Fiesta. But those two leagues are creating a so-called “Champions” Bowl that will likely be bid out to different city every year. Would the “Champions” Bowl then become the SEC’s anchor bowl for a semifinal game or would the Sugar continue to host the SEC’s top-ranked team?
Money-wise, the league would be better off if the “Champions” Bowl replaced the Sugar. Once a city has won the bidding war for the national championship game, the SEC and Big 12 could then put their game up for bid. For those cities who lost the title game, the “Champions” Bowl could be their entry into the three-game playoff mix. That would be worth a lot of cash to a lot of cities. Therefore, that would also be worth a lot of money to the SEC, the Big 12, and their member institutions.
As traditionalists, we at MrSEC.com would hate to see the Sugar Bowl/SEC tie die away. But if money’s on the table — and money’s driving this boat, folks — the SEC should hope the semifinals wind up as anchor bowls and that their own “Champions” Bowl can somehow end up as their league’s anchor game.
3. A hybrid selection process
Everyone loves a good selection committee right up until they actually do their selecting. Every March, the NCAA hoops committee is crucified. Every May, the NCAA baseball committee is keelhauled.
We’ve already made our case for a selection process that would use three different components — committee, poll, and computer formula. It can be transparent. It can be weighted to favor conference champs or strength of the schedule. Most importantly, it would play the same for everyone and negate the issue of bias. With three equal components, one single person’s bias would have much less of an impact on the overall selection process.
SEC fans should hope that computers or polls somehow play a role in determining the four-team field. As noted above, that system has favored Slive’s league for 14 years. So fans of SEC teams need to cross their fingers and pray that the polls and computers aren’t chucked altogether in favor of a pure selection committee.
4. Presidential approval
Once the commissioners reach a deal on a playoff plan, it will ultimately be a group of school presidents who’ll give that plan a thumbs-up or thumbs-down. The goal was for the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee to study and vote on the plan by June 26. We don’t see any way in the world that that happens unless some of the big boy leagues cave quickly or everyone walks in to these meetings with their phasers set to compromise (and that ain’t likely).
According to Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com, Virginia Tech’s president is the committee’s chairperson. Also on the committee are presidents/chancellors from Florida, Fresno State, Louisville, Nebraska, Northern Illinois, Notre Dame, Southern Cal, Texas, Tulane and Western Kentucky.
Florida and Texas will be pro-playoff. Notre Dame will be pro-playoff so long as the Irish have a clear route of entry. Nebraska will likely be against a playoff. As for the rest, it will all come down to self-interests.
And just because there’s lots of cash to be made doesn’t necessarily mean the presidents will go along with the commissioners’ recommendation. There have been millions of television dollars up for grabs for years and no one’s pushed a playoff through. We’re a lot closer to that happening now, yes, but nothing’s guaranteed.
So to summarize, if you’re an SEC fan you should be hoping for:
1. A four-team playoff taking the four highest-ranked teams or a “3 champs, 1 wild card” compromise, if necessary.
2. The semifinals to be tied to anchor bowls and for the “Champions” bowl to become the SEC’s new anchor bowl (so it can be bid out for enormous cash)
3. Any selection process that involves polls or computers rather than a straight selection committee
4. Presidential approval of all of the above.
Good luck. And let the games begin.